Bass Blog

Michael Hovnanian plays bass in an orchestra located in a large midwestern city.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

This week’s CSO program

BEETHOVEN Leonore Overture No. 2
TURNAGE From All Sides
INTERMISSION
STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring
Esa-Pekka Salonen conductor

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Jim Vincent artistic director
Jorma Elo choreographer


Monday
Off

Tuesday
3:00-5:30 CSO rehearsal

Wednesday
10:00-12:30 1:30-3:30 CSO rehearsals
7:30-10 MOB rehearsal

Thursday
10-12:30 CSO rehearsal
8 PM CSO concert

Friday
Teaching TBD
3-6 MOB rehearsal
8 PM CSO concert

Saturday
10:30-1:30 2:30-5:30 MOB rehearsals
8 PM CSO concert


Sunday
3 CSO concert (Beyond the Score)
6:30 MOB rehearsal
8 PM MOB concert (1st United Methodist Church, Evanston)

Monday
6:30 MOB rehearsal
8 PM MOB concert (Harris Theater, Chicago)

MOB isn’t what it might sound like. It stands for Music of the Baroque.

Seating this week:

Guastafeste
Opland

DiBello
Lester

Kraemer
Hovnanian

Armstrong
Fountain

Only the Stravinsky uses all 8 players this week. The Beethoven is stands 1,3, and 4 – long story as to why the reduction comes from the middle of the section. The Turnage piece is 2 players only.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

This week

This week’s CSO program

Marsalis All Rise

Steven Sloane conductor
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
Wynton Marsalis composer and trumpet
Elizabeth Norman soprano
Elizabeth Harrison mezzo-soprano
Brian Robinson tenor
Martin Woods baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus


Monday
Off

Tuesday
3:30-7 CSO rehearsal
8 PM Gunnelpumpers at Martyr’s

Wednesday
12:30-2:30 3:30-6 CSO rehearsals

Thursday
10-12:30 CSO rehearsal
8 PM CSO concert

Friday
Teaching TBD
8 PM CSO concert


Saturday
8 PM CSO concert

Sunday
3 CSO concert

This week’s seating

Hovnanian
Armstrong

DiBello
Fountain

Playing principal is a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Some Lame Notes

The Trout Quintet bass part isn’t the most challenging thing ever written for double bass. The passage I always need to look at is the d minor variation. The ‘A’ major arpeggio has always posed a bit of a challenge. It is never nice to play that note out of tune or to end the phrase with an awful squawk.

Over the years I have often been obsessed with arpeggios and their fingerings – I have an unfinished book on the subject buried beneath piles of other projects that will probably never be completed either. Anyhow, here are a few different fingerings for that arpeggio.

And here are the fingerings for the variation I used at the concert on Sunday.


The astute observer might have noticed that an obvious fingering choice was not presented. Namely:

or any other of that ilk, meaning those using the ‘A’ harmonic on the ‘D’ string.

And so I come to the secret (perhaps diabolical) reason for this post. I have always had disdain for the ‘A’ harmonic substituting for the closed note. To me it usually comes across as some sort of copout – the crutch used to prop up an inadequate technique.

The Trout Quintet doesn’t come up very often, so the aforementioned harmonic isn’t on my list of the worst offenders. Here are a couple:

Strauss, Ein Heldenleben, #9


where the dulcet, flutelike tone of the harmonic in the middle of the line sounds out of place, dare I say even a bit comic.

Bach, Bouree from the 3rd cello suite (in the G major edition)



where similarly, the apex of the phrase suddenly changes color, demonstrating the player lacks the technique (or courage) to reach the high note.


I know my views are probably in the extreme. Perhaps my dedication to arpeggios makes me unduly biased against this one note, but there you have it. And now I brace myself for the slings and arrows of the harmonic apologists.

Last week’s seating

Sorry, but I got preoccupied with the Trout Quintet and fell behind on my blogging. For anyone who is keeping track, here is the seating from last week. The Chopin concerto used only the first 4 players. I will put up this week's seating after I go to work and find out what it is in a couple hours.

Guastafeste
DiBello

Kraemer
Opland

Armstrong
Hovnanian

Kassinger
Fountain

In other news, the Chicago Bass Ensemble now has a web site:

http://www.chicagobassensemble.com/

Monday, January 08, 2007

This week's schedule

This week’s CSO program

Albéniz Suite española
Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1
Intermission
Respighi The Fountains of Rome
Respighi The Pines of Rome

Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos conductor
Lang Lang piano

Monday
Off

Tuesday
10-12:30 1:30-3:30 CSO rehearsals

Wednesday
2-4:30 CSO rehearsal
6:30 CSO concert


Thursday
8 PM CSO concert

Friday
Teaching TBD
1:30 CSO concert


Saturday
8 PM CSO concert

Sunday
3 PM CSO chamber concert (Trout Quintet)


The Wednesday 6:30 concert is part of the Afterwork Masterworks series.The info on the Sunday Trout Quintet concert is here. I don’t know yet when we are rehearsing.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all. Thanks for the many interesting comments on the Welcome Satan post. The amount of interest initially took me by surprise.

The subject of Pops, programming and populism is probably worthy of a blog all its own, but that isn’t what I set out to do here and I imagine after a time I would find writing about playing pops concerts as tiresome and demoralizing as playing them. I am sure the issue will come up again the way things seem to be heading at the CSO. For now I will leave my opinions in the comments sidebar.

So, on to ‘more important’ things.

After time off – I spent a week out of town – there is always the unpleasant task of getting back into shape. After longer periods away (2 or more weeks) I tend not to have much concentration when I start practicing again. At such times I usually pull out an old book of bass parts from Bach cantatas and read through it, or at least try to. I think Hoffmeister publishes that book. I don’t know if it is still in print. Also, there may be more volumes.

If I’m motivated to get in shape quickly I use a set of finger exercises – mindless but effective. Lately, I’ve been doing some variation of these every day.

Starting with each pair of fingers. Next I do it again with separate bows. After that I repeat it on the other strings.



Next, I take each two note pair and go across the strings. This is the first group. I do this for each of the two note patterns.



Going on, I do a series of patterns using 1-2-4, slurred, then with separate bows and on each string in turn.



Finally, I take those patterns and spread them over two strings. This is the first group. This first line has 3 notes on one string and 1 on the next. The second line is 2 and 2. The third line is 1 and three. I do this for each of the 1-2-4 patterns.



Going through the whole thing takes half an hour, forty minutes and gives a good workout.

When I get time to finish it up I will try and make a PDF of the whole thing (it’s 4 or 5 pages) and post it here.